What I Learned about My town

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Photo of a rare lithograph lent to the group by Ken Morse for our use.
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Bicentennial celebrants gather around our new state historical marker.

with help from ‘Backstreet Mary’Neighbors for Historic
Eaton RR 1, Box 124 Eaton, New York 13334

Eaton, New York, is a small rural hamlet near the center of the
state. Its usually sleepy demeanor was interrupted this past year
to celebrate its 200th birthday. The celebration was to bring a fun
day to the community with the usual parade, speeches, craft show,
baseball game and ice cream social at the church. Instead it
brought all of that and something even more important, it brought
out the rich history of a hamlet that was once a well-known name in
American agricultural business.

Many of the town folk knew of native Eatonite ‘Fanny
Forester’ (famous writer Emily Chubbuck who later married the
world famous missionary to Burma, Andoniram Jud-son); some knew
about famous writer, comedian, and lecturer ‘Eli Perkins’
(Melville Delancy Landon); but most had never realized that Eaton
was the home of an important business, the Wood, Taber & Morse
Steam Engine Works.

The business, founded by Allen N. Wood, was the third steam
engine foundry in the United States. The company started by making
steam engines to run cotton mills and machinery in the 1850s, but
by the 1870s had converted to making portable agricultural engines
that could be pulled by horses anywhere for ready power.

In the 1880s with the invention of its patented (19 patents)
four drive engine, which is considered by many to be the first
practical edition of the four-wheel drive farm tractor of today, it
had become one of the largest steam engine companies in the world.
By the time of the development of this engine, which won the
coveted Gold Medal of Excellence at a London show, the Wood, Taber
& Morse Company had sold steam engines to every state in the
union as well as abroad. The company had an office in Chicago as
well as in Eaton.

A remarkable fact is that in its first 25 years alone, the Wood,
Taber and Morse Engine Works had produced over 3,000 engines at a
cost of $200 to $1,500. Imagine that in today’s monetary
terms!

When its founder, Allen N. Wood, and engineer, Loyal Clark
Taber, died in the year 1892, for all practical purposes the
company ceased production. A business that had spanned over forty
years, employing 50 to 100 men, stopped. The business’s only
surviving partner, Walter Morse, retired to his Norvel
Bacon-designed Victorian home, ‘Park Place,’ and Eaton fell
asleep for 100 years.

The shock of realizing that on the now empty lot, on a street
which bears the name Mechanic Street (so named, to us, for no
apparent reason), rested this giant, was a driving force in putting
together a historic celebration. A small group of neighbors joined
together and wrote two history books, one alone on Wood, Taber and
Morse; a graphics display which will now tour the library system,
schools and state; put up a state historical marker on a piece of
land that was nothing more than a graveled parking area behind the
mini-mart; and made this sign and new found information into a
cornerstone of a community’s pride.

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment